AAP trying to make a place for itself
State assembly elections in politically-sensitive states have the potential to change the political narrative across the country. Earlier this year, elections in Uttar Pradesh attracted the widest interest, followed by Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. But now, as the year is drawing to a close, people across the country are watching the assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh with great interest for some significant reasons.
Gujarat, with 182 Assembly seats, is of special interest, being the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The state has been ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 1998. It is considered a stronghold of the BJP and Narendra Modi himself had been the state’s Chief Minister for four terms spanning more than 12 years: from October 2001 to May 2014. The present Chief Minister is Bhupendra Rajnikant Patel, having replaced his predecessor Vijay Rupani in September 2021.
3-way fight in Gujarat
The state traditionally saw an electoral battle between the BJP and the Congress but this time, the entry of an enthusiastic Aam Aadmi party (AAP), riding on the success it got in forming a government in Punjab, has changed the equation. The BJP is challenged by both the Indian National Congress and the AAP, in a state that has the potential to influence the impact of the BJP government at the Centre.
Elections in Gujarat will be held on December 1 and 5, with the counting of votes and result scheduled on December 8. While the BJP and the Congress have not announced the name of their party’s respective Chief Minister candidates, the AAP has been prompt on this, and its state party leader and former journalist Isudan Gadhvi has been named as the party’s face. The names doing the rounds in Congress are Jagadish Thakore and Shakti Sinh Gohil.
The BJP has announced the names of 160 candidates and the most interesting among them are Hardik Patel from his hometown Viramgam and Alpesh Thakore from Gandhinagar. Both these youth leaders had been vocal faces of anti-BJP movements in Gujarat in the past and had been members of the Congress too, for some time.
The BJP is eyeing a generational shift as many senior party leaders including former chief minister Vijay Rupani, and former Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel have not been given tickets. The BJP list includes 49 OBC faces, 40 Patel candidates, 37 SC/ST candidates and 14 women candidates.
The present party position in Gujarat is:
BJP -110; Congress -59; Independent -1; Others -4; Vacant -8
Campaigning for Himachal Pradesh election ended on November 10 and the state will see single-phase polling on November 12. The state has a BJP government headed by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. The hill state has had a tradition of not repeating a government and the other parties in fray are hoping to get advantage of this. Interestingly, just a few days before the campaigning ended, 26 leaders of the Congress party quit and joined the ruling BJP, giving a boost to the latter.
It had been a two-party state in the past years with the Congress being the main contender. But this time AAP has made an entry to the state, making it a triangular contest. Besides these three parties, other parties contesting the polls are the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Rashtriya Devbhumi Party (RDP). The BJP, Congress, and AAP are contesting on all 68 seats, while CPIM is fighting on 11, CPI 1, BSP 53, and RDP 29.
The present party position in HP is: BJP – 44; Congress -21; Independents -2 and CPIM -1.
Prime Minister Modi, Amit Shah, BJP leaders JP Nadda and many others have campaigned extensively in both states. On part of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi has been away from Gujarat while he campaigned in Himachal Pradesh for one day on November 8. AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has campaigned extensively in both states and his party is hoping for a good result in both places.
The result will come as a boost to the BJP if it wins both, whereas a loss in any or both states will cause a dent in not only the party’s image but that of Prime Minister Modi as an election-winner. For the Congress, a win in any state or even a second position will come as a morale-booster for Rahul and the party’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra. It is the AAP which will get a tremendous boost if it manages a win in either state or a runner-up position in either. The party has a government in Delhi and Punjab, and a win in either states will make it a major contender to become a challenger for the BJP in 2024 Lok Sabha election.